FBI addresses online threats to children, warns parents of sextortion

FBI Sextortion warning to online minors and parents
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The FBI is warning parents, educators, caregivers, and children about the dangers of online activity that may lead to the solicitation and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual acts. Sextortion involves an offender coercing a minor to create and send sexually explicit images or videos. An adult offender gets sexually explicit material from the child, then threatens to release that compromising material unless the victim produces more. These offenders are seeking sexual gratification.

Financially motivated sextortion is a criminal act that involves an offender coercing a minor to create and send sexually explicit material. Offenders threaten to release that compromising material unless they receive payment, which is often requested in gift cards, mobile payment services, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. These offenders are motivated by financial gain, not necessarily just sexual gratification.

Victims are typically males between the ages of 14 to 17, but any child can become a victim. In cases of financially motivated sextortion, offenders are usually located outside the United States, primarily in West African countries such as Nigeria and Ivory Coast, or Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines. These crimes can lead victims to self-harm and have led to suicide. From October 2021 to March 2023, the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations received over 13,000 reports of online financial sextortion of minors. The sextortion involved at least 12,600 victims—primarily boys—and led to at least 20 suicides. In the six months from October 2022 to March 2023, the FBI observed at least a 20% increase in reporting of financially motivated sextortion incidents involving minor victims compared to the same period the previous year.

Special Agent in Charge Stephen Cyrus of the FBI’s Kansas City Field Office stated, “The increase in incidents is staggering and heartbreaking – and this increase reflects only what has been reported. As parents and guardians, we must protect and educate our children on the dangers of the internet. We must understand these dangers, and that this crime does not discriminate – any child, anywhere can be a potential target for these online predators. It must be clear to our youth that they are not to blame, they are not alone, and there is help.”

If you or someone you know believes that they are a victim of sextortion or financially motivated sextortion, immediately report the activity to law enforcement. You can report it to the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or visiting the tips section of the FBI website.

For more information on sextortion and financial sextortion, visit the FBI’s website.

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